Boffins tweak daddy longlegs into ‘daddy shortlegs’ to unlock DNA blueprint

If you have not come across a daddy longlegs while living in the UK then you may well have been living under a rock.

There aren’t many people who haven’t experienced the frightening moment one of the gangly beasts somehow bundles their way through a bedroom window and lands on your head.

Despite being harmless to human beings there is something unnerving about the oversized pins dangling from its body.

With that in mind scientists decided it would be worth their time to try and morph daddy longlegs or harvestmen into daddy ‘shortlegs’ through gene manipulation, reports CNET.

Researchers led by Guilherme Gainett from the University of Wisconsin-Madison first sequenced the genome of Europe’s most widely found daddy longlegs called Phalangium opilio.



Daddy longlegs are also known as harvestmen

Then using a technique known as RNA interference scientists essentially removed the genes that are associated with long, gangly legs from hundreds of daddy longleg embryos.

The method resulted in a reduction in length of six of the eight legs, but their appearance boasted most similarities with pedipalps rather than legs.

Researcher Gainett said: “The genome of the daddy long legs holds great potential to clarify the complex history of arachnid genome evolution and body plan, as well as to reveal how daddy longlegs make their unique long legs.”

Details regarding the study were published in a journal in The Royal Society with the hope the research could help lead to a greater understanding of arachnids.

“Looking forward, we are interested in understanding how genes give rise to novel features of arachnids, such as spider fangs and scorpion pinchers, and also leveraging the genome to develop the first transgenic harvestmen,” Gainett added.

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